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Young entrepreneurs pivot to battle on Ukraine’s economic frontline

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Financial Times, May 2022

When Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February, Andrey Stavnitser, head of a shipping terminal group, assessed his options. Moscow’s bombing campaign, combined with the blockade of ports and the laying of mines, suddenly made his business of transporting Ukrainian grain to world markets through the Black Sea impossible. “After each storm, Russian mines are blown [around],” says the 39-year-old Stavnitser, owner and chief executive of TransInvestService, which operates shipping terminals at the port of Pivdenny, near the city of Odesa. “Our ports are now shut, the crews have left and our 150,000-tonne vessels resemble ghost ships. Our income today is zero.” For now, he continues to pay his 5,000 workers, but seems unsure how long this can last. Stavnitser, who cut his teeth working as a ship dispatcher before taking over the family business, calculates 20mn tonnes of grain, worth close to $10bn, is stranded in Ukrainian ports and stores. “The only way to export this is by sea. Moving these quantities across our western border by rail or truck would take us three years. There is no Ukraine without seaports.”

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